Saturday, January 05, 2008

Slap on the wrist for brutal riverside killers...?

The callous brutality of two separate local riverside killings has left me totally stunned...and compelled to comment on what appears to be the extraordinary light sentences handed down to two sick teenage killers who burned and tortured a helpless man.

First, there was the shocking bloody murder of Anita Anderson(pictured, right). She was smashed over the head with a saucepan by her husband of 32 years, who then drove her to the banks of the River Welland right here in Deeping St James.

This report from The Sun tells how she regained conciousness, and was then stabbed and bashed with a hammer before being weighed down with a tractor tyre - probably still alive - to die in a pool of blood.

Anita's husband had callously offered £20,000 to a hitman to get rid of his wife, so he could run off with a younger woman.

Just before Christmas, husband and hitman went to jail for over 20 years each after being convicted of a heartless and cruel murder.

Judge Michael Stokes said Anderson showed his wife no mercy and he would get none from the court. He ordered him to serve at least 22 years behind bars before parole could be even considered. If he died in prison, so be it, said the good Judge.

That sounded to me like some kind of justice and at least a little comfort for those left to pick up the pieces.

But now we have a sentencing row over a pair of teenage killers who savagely burned a helpless man in Spalding, urinated on him and callously filmed themselves chucking him in the River Welland to drown.

The same Judge Stokes yesterday sentenced the killers of Toby Atkin. Judge Stokes is reported to have been appalled that one of the brutal killers, just 16 at the time, had 24 previous convictions for offences such as burglary, battery, and possessing an offensive weapon. But his longest sentence had been four-months detention and a training order for handling stolen goods.

The younger killer, 14 at the time, had 13 previous convictions for such offences as harassment, battery, arson, burglary and theft. He's never received a custodial sentence.

Judge Stokes was apparently astonished that both had repeatedly been given a weak slap on the wrist.

Even more astonishing - in my view - was the sentence that Mr Justice Stokes then handed down: five years detention for one killer and and just 42 months for the other.

Both are likely to serve only half their sentence before release on licence.

The killing was last May, so if they've been on remand since, it appears that one of them could be home early next year, possibly less than two years after his terrible crime.

That doesn't seem to right to me.

It's always dangerous relying on media reports of cases before commenting on sentences. I wasn't in court and don't pretend to know the full facts of the case.

But from what I've read, at the end of the day Judge Stokes' words about a weak slap on the wrist seem to have a hollow ring.

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